Glacier Park’s East Side Reopens

NPS Glacier News Release

WEST GLACIER, Mont. [March 17, 2021] – Glacier National Park announces access to the east side of the park will reopen on March 18 at Two Medicine, Cut Bank and St. Mary for foot traffic, skis and snowshoes. Regular winter closures remain in place. Chief Mountain Road will remain closed at the park boundary until road conditions permit.

Wikipedia photo

The entrance at St. Mary allows vehicle traffic on Going-to-the-Sun Road for 1.5 miles until the winter gate closure at St. Mary Campground. Access past the gate is allowed by foot, skiing and snowshoeing as is typical of normal winter seasons. The St. Mary Campground remains closed to winter camping until further notice.

The roads into Cut Bank, and Two Medicine remain closed to vehicle traffic for the winter, but access by foot, skiing and snowshoeing is available past the gates as is typical of normal winter seasons. Construction began on Many Glacier Road on March 15 and is closed to vehicular traffic and closed to hiker/biker traffic Monday through Friday through May 28.

Visitors are reminded that winter conditions are unpredictable and can quickly become dangerous. Visitors should prepare for icy conditions, high winds, and snow. Cellular communications in the park are extremely limited.

Access to the park east of the Continental Divide has been closed since March 2020 to protect the Blackfeet Indian Reservation population from COVID-19 due to high-risk members of the community. The decision to allow access to the east side was made after close consultation between health officials from the National Park Service, Indian Health Service, the Blackfeet Tribe, Glacier County and the state of Montana.

It will be nice to see Two Medicine, Many Glacier Hotel, and Glacier Park Lodge open again. The news should be especially exciting to organizers and participants at the planned MGH Employees Reunion scheduled for this summer.


Protecting Parks from Fracking

“From the eastern boundary of Glacier National Park in Montana, visitors can throw a stone and hit any of 16 exploratory wells and associated holding tanks, pump jacks, and machinery used to force millions of gallons of pressurized water, sand, and chemicals into shale rock formations thousands of feet beneath the surface.”  – James D. Nations, Ph.D., Vice President for NPCA’s Center for Park Research

Center for Park Research
Center for Park Research

The existence of wells and the infrastructure of fracking within a stone’s throw of Glacier National Park is unacceptable. Some have said we are powerless to prevent it because those wells are within the sovereign Blackfeet Nation. To that, I ask, does sovereignty extend outside a nation’s borders?

Some years ago, the proposed Cabin Creek mine in British Columbia was stopped, in part, because it was likely to pollute rivers flowing from Canada into the U.S. The same is likely to be true of groundwater outside the immediate proximity of those wells on Blackfeet land.

James D. Nations writes in “Fracking and National Park Wildlife” that a third of the nation’s national parks are within twenty-five miles of shale basins. This means that a great number of wildlife habitats are potentially at risk. These risks come primarily in the areas of habitat fragmentation, water quality and quantity, and noise and air pollution.

There’s an old fashioned Libertarian principle that may finally be taken seriously as we realize more and more that the Earth is one community. The principle is that you cannot do anything on your land that harms your neighbor or your neighbor’s land.

The dangers of fracking and other forms of pollution are not restricted to the property where the industrial development occurs. Air and water carry the negative impacts many miles away. This is not acceptable.

While we may not be  able to quickly wean ourselves away from older coal fired power plants where no alternatives are quickly available, fracking is relatively new. The complete nature of its threats and risks are not yet known. We don’t need it any more than we need new coal fired power plants.

We need, I think, to look not only at the threats to Glacier and other national parks, but to the places where we live and work. If we take life seriously, we can no longer permit one company or one nation or one developer to do as he wishes on the land he owns or leases when his actions affect people, habitats and wildlife many miles away.

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